Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies

Date dicembre 9, 2009

In Italy the 8th of December is an holiday dedicated to Saint Mary, when usually we trim the tree and we start making Christmas cookies… as every year, the house is full of cinnamon, aniseed and vanilla smells! Tuscan cookies are not nice to see nor colourfull, cool or chic… they’re round, a bit flat on the edge and dusted with flour. When I was young, mum used to bring home a white paper bag from San Gimignano, full of cavallucci, a gift from my Grandad for his niece.

Each time I eat those cookies, they remind me of Grandad. They are very similar: rustic and bashful on the outside, but sweet and flavourl inside, full of delicious ingredients and spices.

You can find tons of cavallucci recipes, but if you want to make really good cavallucci, there is just one way to have them: choose your favourite traditional shop, one of those that sell sweets, coffee and candies, go next to the counter with a suspicious look and whisper to the seller: can you give me the ingredients for half a kilo of cantuccini? The man will turn his back and fill small paper bags with candied fruits and spices, then he will put all the ingredients together in a bigger bag, he will close seal it and he will undoubtedly say: this is the one and only recipe, the right one, you’ll see what a masterpice they will be, I’m sure we will see again before Christmas because you’ll be searching again for those ingredients, I bet!

And I’ll be back to this shop, my cantuccini have let my aunt without words, they’re super, amazing, awful!



  • plain flour, 650 gr
  • sugar, 350 gr
  • icing sugar, 30 gr
  • shelled walnuts, 200 gr
  • candied fruit, 90 gr (orange, lemon, citron)
  • baking ammonia, 15 gr
  • water, 170 gr
  • cavallucci spices, 15 gr (cinnamon,coriander, nutmeg and aniseed, ground and mixed).

Chop roughly walnuts and add candied fruits, icing sugar, spices and ammoniaca: use your hands to mix all the ingredients. Add flour and mix again.

In a separate pot add sugar and water and melt sugar on a low heat: pay attention! Don’t let the sugar candy, otherwise you’ll have cavallucci way too hard, and you’ll need titanium teeth to chew them!

When sugar has melted, pour it over the other ingredients and mix throughly with the help of a wooden spoon. Make thick rolls (about 5cm of width) and cut them into slices. I made about 40 slices: knead them again, make small balls and slightly flat them pressing each ball with your thumb. Put them in a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake them for not more than 15 minutes in preheated oven to 180°C. Let them cool completely.

A strong ammonia smell is totally normal: when you’ll eat cavallucci, once cooled completely or better the day after, it will be completely disappeared and those Tuscan cookies will be crunchy on the outside and sweet and soft inside, with a million of flavours thet will exalt eachother.

I partecipate with this recipe to the virtual cookie swap held by Jennie’s Kitchen:


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6 Responses to “Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies”

  1. Daniela said:

    Non sai da quanto volevo questa ricetta (mi ricorda la mia infanzia in campagna – Umbria) ma mi sono sempre dimenticata di cercala. Ora ci sono finita dentro e non la mollo; tranne che non so perché sto nella parte inglese, ora vado nelll’italiano e la cerc o. Ciao. Grazie:


  2. Ricciarelli, Siena’s almond cookies | Juls' Kitchen said:

    [...] shop Rosi in Poggibonsi (SI), slightly revised. Last year I followed their doses to make cavallucci - very good - this year I tried ricciarelli - the real ricciarelli di Siena - and [...]

  3. Cavalucci cookies | Winnersatgamin said:

    [...] cavallucci, typical Tuscan Christmas cookies – Juls’ KitchenDec 8, 2009 … In Italy the 8th of December is an holiday dedicated to Saint Mary, when usually we trim the tree and we start making Christmas cookies… as … [...]

  4. Italian Table Talk: Holiday traditions & Cavallucci | Emiko Davies said:

    [...] them colour. As with many homemade recipes, there are variations from house to house – check out Giulia’s cavallucci recipe [...]

  5. jane said:

    Hi Juls, I am in London and wondering where or even if I can buy baking ammonia here as it is not something I have ever seen/heard of. Is there some other combination of either baking powder, cream of tartar or bicarbonate of soda that I could use instead? Many thanks, Jane


    Giulia Risposta:

    Hello Jane. You might want to ask to a pharmacy, they could have it.
    Anyway, I’d try with cream of tartar or baking powder. They are not supposed to raise too much, so just a teaspoon would work.


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